HELENA – Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public comment on a draft plan and environmental impact statement to guide the long-term management and conservation of grizzly bears across the state.
“For decades, FWP staff have worked with federal, tribal, and local partners, along with communities and landowners, to recover and then manage grizzly bear populations across much of Montana,” said FWP Director Hank Worsech. “This plan will put that experience into action and provide a framework for comprehensive management of grizzly bears in the state and ensure the populations remain sustainable and healthy into the future.”
The plan was informed by existing bear plans and conservation strategies for parts of the state, the federal recovery plan and the work of the Grizzly Bear Advisory Council, appointed under the previous administration in 2019.
The new plan would replace two existing plans – those for western Montana and for southwest Montana – with one statewide plan in which FWP commits to maintaining the long-term viability of grizzly bears while prioritizing human safety. The statewide plan will serve as a framework for the management of grizzly bears now and into the future.
Montana has petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem and supports Wyoming’s petition to delist grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, where they have surpassed recovery goals. Other recovery areas in Montana include the Cabinet-Yaak and Bitterroot ecosystems.
“Although grizzly bears are federally listed under the Endangered Species Act, having a plan like this in place will lay out Montana’s vision and general framework for management of grizzly bears, whether or not they are listed,” said Director Worsech.
The draft plan will guide management statewide, with particular focus on areas with documented grizzly bear presence, as well as in those places where they are expected to expand. The draft plan addresses how bears will be managed outside of federal recovery zones, including connectivity areas between the zones. The EIS addresses potential environmental impacts of implementing the plan.
To answer questions about the draft plan and EIS, FWP will host a statewide Zoom webinar on Dec. 15, from 6 to 8 p.m. Details on how to join the webinar will be posted on the FWP website closer to that date.
The draft plan and EIS will be open for public comment until Jan. 5. To review the plan and comment, go online to https://fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/public-comment-opportunities/grizzly-bear-management-plan. To comment by mail, send to Wildlife Division, Grizzly Bear Plan and EIS, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620. Comments can also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once the comment period is concluded, FWP staff will review the comments, make adjustments to the plan and EIS as necessary and then Director Worsech will issue a record of decision, in accordance with the Montana Environmental Policy Act. The department will then present the plan to the Fish and Wildlife Commission for their review and potential endorsement.